I was talking to a buddy of mine today and he mentioned that he was having
his kitched floors redone with bamboo. For a long time I was incredulous,
cause I always thought bamboo was this nice round segmented bush/tree that
was rife with problems - it was small and round, it was relatively soft, it
harbored bacteria, and it was hollow.
He mentioned something about how it was processed into a composite material
that was harder than oak and very long lasting. What gives, when did bamboo
become a flooring material of choice?
I looked at some at Lumber Liquidators and decided bamboo is what I
was going to buy. They have one style advertised on their web site
at $1.99 per sq ft.
I have been involved in several large bamboo projects while managing a
large well-known flooring company. We saw and were hired to fix problems
that other contractors experienced and had we some of our own. In the end,
we pulled it from our showrooms and made it an ask-for item.
The problems were mainly excessive splitting from nailing and 'staining'
when trying to apply water-based finish.
The inner portion is soft, the outer part is quite hard. There are a
multitude of varieties of bamboo, some of which can reach heights of
120 ft or so which are quite large in diameter and consequently, have
sizable thickness of the outer layer required to support that kind of
Oh, about 5000 years ago or so.... :)
There are several ways to process it, from simply milling the larger
stems noted above into usable pieces of material similar to more
familiar sawmill operation, lamininating multiple thinner pieces a la
laminated beams to chipboard-style usages.
Bamboo is a fast growing grass something like 6" in height or so per day so
unlike tress it could be harvested multiple times. It's more water
resistant, harder and more stable than many hardwood species which makes it
a good flooring material. I would say its a material of choice but
certainly I wouldn't have any problem laying bamboo flooring in my house.
The bamboo samples I checked out were quite hard indeed much harder
than red oak or maple, and because of its stability, it would seem to
make a good kitchen flooring. It also looks very good, but I agree
that natural hardwood looks better for the variations of grain patterns
and such. I am surprised that the Chinese haven't figured out a way to
make bamboo studs and beam from the fiber. Given bamboo's fast growth
and easy farming, it would be great to reduce the use of tree lumber
from forests for building material.
I am surprised that the Chinese haven't figured out a way to
The Chinese are more interested in eating the shoots than playing with the
Seriously, have you seen the use of bamboo as scaffolding in high-rise
buildings in places like China and Hong Kong? Its preferred over steel
scaffolding in that part of the woods. As for bamboo studs and beams I think
its stronger than wood per weight but how do you nail it together?
This is just a matter of personal taste. It's a different look. We're
used to the hardwood look, but wood is just one material that can be
used as a floor, and it's just a matter of being open-minded to other
looks. The trick, for me, was just to realize that it's *not* wood.
If you stop comparing it to hardwood, you will stop thinking it looks
"inferior" and will instead just think it looks different.
For me, I actually like that it has all the properties of a good
hardwood floor, but with a different look. We have a whole lotta
hardwood in my house already, but we're doing one room in bamboo just
for variety's sake.
I have vertical [natural] bamboo, and it is nowhere near a hard as oak.
My dog has clawed it up [without breaking the finish] and has not done
so on the oak in my house. So although I like it, the hardness stuff is bs.
OK, it *ISNT* harder than oak, because I have had the house for 10
years, with the same dog, and the 10 year old[actually 16 yo] oak floors
are relatively speaking, undamaged. So there is a gravity shift between
my living room and my hallway[and bedrooms] then bamboo is in fact not
harder than oak.
Well, it is relatively easy to test a single sample or even a
particular manufacturer's product that is controlled to use the same
raw material and go through the same process(es). But there are so
many varieties of bamboo and such variability between them that you
might as well be comparing an average of all the hardwood species in
North America and claiming "it" is harder or softer than, say,
Brazilian Cherry--it's apples and oranges.
A _very_ quick search found Janka hardness ratings for bamboo floorings
from 1820 to 1155 on a set of roughly a half-dozen "samples". Beyond
the factor of which bamboo was used to begin with, the hardness of a
flooring will depend strongly on vertical/horizontal grain,
composite/sawn material, caramelized treatment for color (softens it a
bunch), etc., etc., etc., ...
The upshot is both sides of the argument here could well be right--some
samples test as hard as or harder than either white (~1360 typical) or
red (~1300 typical) oak while others don't come close.
I have "engineered" bamboo floors and they dent easier than hardwood, but
thats because its a thin layer of bamboo over a plywood backing. I thing
"pure" bamboo would hold up much better. What kind do you have?
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